Presented by The Rambler

After years of extensive research and planning, the city of Irving began construction on its first homeless shelter for teens, thanks to city partnerships with the La Buena Vida Youth Leadership Foundation, Advocates for Homeless Teens and Bear Creek Community Development.

A formal groundbreaking ceremony for the La Buena Vida House at 200 Alpine Court was held Thursday, Jan. 29 on the vacant lot which will soon feature a homeless shelter for male teens.

“This is the type of place, community outreach and community effort that we, whether at the state level or city level, need to be behind,” State Representative Rodney Anderson said. “We need to recruit more people to do this type of outreach. We need to have more people willing to put their time, treasure and talents to take care of those who are the weakest among us.”

A few elected officials were present at the groundbreaking including Councilman Allen Meagher, Councilman Dennis Webb and Councilman Oscar Ward. Chris Allen, chairman of the La Buena Vida Youth Leadership Foundation, discussed the transformation of the Tutor Lane and Alpine Court area, which just a few years ago was lined with neglected apartment buildings and saturated with criminal activity. Now, the street is home to brand new, energy efficient housing.

“It’s a glorious day, and I think it’s an omen for what’s going to happen on this ground,” Allen said.

“It wasn’t but a few years ago that this block was one of the most crime-ridden blocks in Dallas County. A lot of people worked to clean this [neighborhood] up, and this is an example of a community coming together and of urban revitalization. We are proud to be a part of the solution.

“This is a wonderful moment for everyone who has worked long and hard to pull this off. This issue of homeless teens is real, and it’s in our community. The house that’s being constructed today is in Irving, it’s for Irving, it’s for Irving’s most vulnerable, and it’s for our children and our future leaders. Some of these young men are going to be doctors, lawyers, policemen, firemen and welders. They’re going to build our streets, and they may even be state representatives someday. If we didn’t have a program like this, I guarantee those dreams would be a lot harder to achieve.

“This project is at zero cost to the tax payers of Irving. It’s being built by private dollars and federal home funds. It’s a win for Irving. This project transcends politics, race and religion. With that being said, I don’t believe it should be a political issue, and I don’t believe it should be opposed by anyone,” he said.

According to Allen, there is still much to be done about Irving’s homeless population, and the foundation will soon begin working on a separate homeless shelter for homeless teen females.

“This project only addresses one segment of the homeless population. We plan to double down on these efforts,” Allen said. “Once this project is completed, we plan to move right into a project for female students. There’s much to be done to address the different segments of homelessness in our community, and I challenge each one of us to try to eradicate homelessness. Irving’s too good of a community to have homelessness in it. Irving is a great community and together we can do great things, and this is just one example of that,” Allen said.

The vision for the house began nearly six years ago when five women noticed that Irving’s teen homeless population was a growing problem. To spearhead the issue, Dr. Lori Davis and her colleagues founded Advocates for Homeless Teens. The five ambitious women, with the guidance of former Mayor Herbert Gears, began researching their cause, which led to their partnership with La Buena Vida.

“In 2009, four women and myself got together to discuss what was going on in Irving, and within three days we were in Herbert Gears’ office,” Davis said. “He listened, and then he said ‘go out and study the problem and come back with some solution, and we’ll talk about it.’ We did a lot of work, and we did a lot of research. The purpose of this home is to help kids get a high school diploma. I know the Buena Vida house is going to help lots of kids.”

Herbert Gears was also present at the groundbreaking ceremony.

“I’m really proud of the Advocates for Homeless Teens. It’s a small group of five women that came to my office very compassionate about the issue of these young adults in Irving ISD being homeless,” Gears said. “All I did was guide them along, marshal their energy and encourage them to see it through. They knew what problem they wanted to solve and then went through a lengthy process of educating themselves.

“When you talk about housing with regards to liabilities and supervision, there’s a whole lot to it. It’s much more than just a warm heart for a troubled child. Along the way, I introduced the advocates to the La Buena Vida Foundation because they had similar interests. The partnership has turned out to work really well. It’s all good for the community of Irving. It’s a testament to what just a few people who make a decision to do something can get done,” he said.

To learn more, visit: www.lbvyouthleadership.org/

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